The Limpopo Province-based Makuya hunting community is one of South Africa’s most successful hunting communities, earning a gross annual income of R2.1m that is benefiting conservation and community development.

Sadly, despite all these promising signs of poverty alleviation based on its vibrant wildlife economy Makuya residents allege that a Limpopo Provincial Government department is ironically compromising their future business success by subjecting them to racial segregation, threatening to collapse their hunting business.

For the past few weeks, Makuya was anxious to know why the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET) had given them a directive to prematurely stop the hunting season at their end of September 2019 and not end of March 2020 as originally agreed. The Makuya residents and leaders wondered why in contrast, white hunting companies in the same area were allegedly being allowed to hunt for a comparatively longer period up to the end of March 2020.

This week LEDET responded to Makuya Community, saying that its hunting season was no longer going to be cut short. LEDET responded to Makuya’s long-standing query, only after a local environmental journalist had requested LEDET Director of Wildlife Trade and Regulations, Mr Samuel Makhubele to respond to Makuya’s racial allegations and the shortening of their hunting season. Mr Makhubele declined to comment.

“LEDET wanted to stop us from hunting before the agreed hunting season ends in March 2020, while selectively allowing the white-owned hunting companies to continue hunting in the same area until March 2020, said the Makuya Nature Reserve hunting community sustainable tourism facilitator, Ms Esther Netshivhongweni who foresees continued future challenges in the way LEDET is managing their hunting permits. “This racial discrimination of allocating a shorter hunting period to Makuya has been the practice for years by LEDET until beginning of this year when the new hunting protocol was signed between LEDET and us.”

Ms Netshivhongweni said that Makuya signed a co-management agreement with LEDET, allowing them to participate in joint decision making with LEDET.

“But LEDET always takes unilateral decisions applying dictatorship management style to us,” she said.

A knowledgeable and probably South Africa’s lone voice for the inclusion of rural communities and female black hunters into the mainstream hunting industry, Ms Netshivhongweni said that if the short their hunting season had not been reversed by LEDET this week, it was going to negatively impact on Makuya’s image and hunting business.

Certainly, the Makuya successful hunting business model is something that South African national government represented by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) dare not collapse but uplift and support. Accordingly, DEA recently donated a R15 million to support Makuya Nature Reserve’s environmental work, including anti-poaching operations.

“We have just finalised employment of 24 trainee rangers in an attempt to fight poaching,” said Ms Esther Netshivhongweni. “The Department of Environmental Affairs has also just announced to our communities that they have funded Makuya Nature Reserve to an amount of R15 million. Additionally, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) has also been very instrumental in helping with the auctioning of our animals, in order to secure anti-poaching funds.”

Meanwhile, other hunting communities not only in South Africa but also throughout Southern Africa have already been invited to take part in Makuya Nature Reserve hunting community look and learn exchange visits. The hunting business is touching and changing local people’s lives; creating employment for game rangers, game skinners, drivers, office administrators and poultry producers.

“Hunting is generating sustainable income for our communities,” said the Chairperson of Makuya Traditional council, Ms Idah Baloyi. “We have built village halls, funded layers project at R500, 000.00 and have just bought Toyota Legend Double Cab for attending meetings [administrative work]. We are registering a non-profit organisation (NPO) and will exclusively use the income from auctioned wildlife for anti-poaching operations. We are now managing our very own hunting business which is very exciting”, said the Chairperson of Makuya Traditional council, Ms Idah Baloyi.

Employment creation is one the benefits that hunting has brought to Makuya.

“It was difficult for me to feed my family, my kids used to sleep on empty stomach, but when I became a trainee tracker in hunting, my family is now happily receiving grocery every month”, said a trainee tracker Mr Ronald Mudau of the Makuya hunting community.

Therefore, a whole new, promising and inspirational hunting industry has exploded in Limpopo Province.

A hunting company that works with Makuya Community is also supporting local learners with school uniform donations, while Makuya Community is using its hunting revenue to bring never-seen-before infrastructural developments and socioeconomic development projects in the Community.

“We are proud of Dracura Wildlife community social responsibility work, this year they donated R6 000.00 and sports equipment and first aid kit,” said Tshikalange Principal Mr Nemukula NG. “Under Dracura Wildlife leadership we believe that God has answered our prayers for these poor kids.”

The Makuya Nature Reserve Hunting Community wants to see the inclusion of eligible black rural communities in the hunting sector. It is an industry that they want to protect and defend.

Just last week, Makuya grabbed international media headlines when it invited our very own USA-based comedian Mr Trevor Noah to come and learn how they are significantly benefiting from hunting so that he can stop campaigning to ban hunting. This followed Mr Noah’s suggestion on his U.S.A. late-night news satire television programme [The Daily Show], that wildlife hunting should be banned in Southern Africa because it only brings as little as 3% benefits to the region’s hunting communities. To the contrary, Makuya Community receives 100% hunting revenue with 50% of it used to cover administrative costs while the other half is injected into community socioeconomic development projects.

Now the hunting controversy has shifted back home in South Africa against Makuya’s own Provincial Government Department [LEDET’s] over its alleged selective and racist handling of Makuya’s hunting permits.

Spirit of peace and sustainability
Between June 2016 and November 2016, Ms Netshivhongweni facilitated the negotiations for the three traditional councils to work together as the co-owners of the Makuya Nature Reserve by contributing their land into the Nature Reserve. The three traditional councils later signed a memorandum of agreement and also a co-management agreement with LEDET.

Inter-community economic benefits an era of new relationship
Economic benefits of the three traditional councils are distributed proportionally according to the hectare percentage of land contributed by each traditional council in the Nature Reserve. In this new relationship, Makuya Traditional Council relinquished 10% from their economic benefits and allocated 5% each to Mphaphuli and Mutele Traditional Councils, respectively.

The Makuya Nature Reserve covers 13808.2276 hectares with Makuya owning 12975 hectares (93.96%) while Mphaphuli Traditional Council owns 56 hectares (0.41%) and Mutele 776 hectares (5.63%).

The involvement of South African rural communities in the previously white dominated hunting industry has great potential to promote meaningful rural development while instilling a culture of wildlife conservation.

About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

By Emmanuel Koro

The Express News

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